A Donegal hotel manager has warned that the coronavirus outbreak will cripple the local hospitality and tourism industry if the government does not take action.
Michael Naughton, general manager of the Clanree Hotel in Letterkenny, has warned that jobs will be lost permanently and businesses will be forced to close if the industry loses out on Easter bookings.
Mr Naughton said his hotel took eight tour cancellations yesterday alone due to COVID-19.
The county councillor is demanding an immediate cut in the VAT rate to 9% for tourism and hospitality businesses, along with a freeze on employers’ PRSI.
The cancellation of St. Patrick’s Day festivities was the first big blow for businesses in this worrying time, he said.
“Everybody in this business knows that January and February are lost months, Easter is the one that can make or break you. Now with Paddy’s Day not going to happen and if Easter doesn’t happen we’re going to see businesses closing their doors,” Mr Naughton said.
“Jobs are going to be lost, not just in the short term, but for ever more.
“I can’t even talk about the amount of cancellations we’re seeing.”
As talks of prevention measures continue in Ireland, including restricted numbers on gatherings and lockdowns, Mr Naughton said urgent action is needed from both the public and the government to support the tourism industry.
“We have to work as a group to outrun this storm. Let’s keep going as normal. Unless you have been outside the country or in contact with an affected person, please stay at the house. if not, keep going out and enjoy yourself, keep going to work. We can’t close the country down.
He added: “People are panicking. I’m calling on people to do the simple things right, watch your hygiene, for the government to stop flights to and from Italy, and carry out checks on people coming in and at the ports. The problem is we left it too long.”
Cllr Naughton said he has contacted TDs and Ministers to lobby the government on the VAT rate reduction and employers’ PRSI freeze, warning that “it is a worrying time, but we need to act quicker.”